By Arshad Mohammed and Marwa Awad
CAIRO (Reuters) – Protesters threw tomatoes and shoes at U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s motorcade on Sunday during her first visit to Egypt since the election of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi.
A tomato struck an Egyptian official in the face, and shoes and a water bottle landed near the armoured cars carrying Clinton’s delegation in the port city of Alexandria.
A senior state department official said that neither Clinton nor her vehicle, which were around the corner from the incident, were struck by any of the projectiles.
Protesters chanted: “Monica, Monica”, a reference to Former President Bill Clinton’s extra-marital affair. Some chanted: “leave, Clinton”, Egyptian security officials said.
It was not clear who the protesters were or what political affiliations they had. Protesters outside Clinton’s hotel on Saturday night chanted anti-Islamist slogans, accusing the United States of backing the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power.
The assault on her motorcade came on a day Clinton spoke at the newly re-opened U.S. consulate in Alexandria, addressing accusations the United States, which had long supported former President Hosni Mubarak, of backing one faction or another in Egypt following his ouster last year.
“I want to be clear that the United States is not in the business, in Egypt, of choosing winners and losers, even if we could, which of course we cannot,” Clinton said.
Clinton also met the country’s top general, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, on Sunday to discuss Egypt’s turbulent democratic transition as the military wrestles for influence with the new president.
RIGHTS OF ALL
The meeting came a day after she met Mursi, whose powers were clipped by the military days before he took office.
Mursi fired back by reinstating the Islamist-dominated parliament that the army leadership had disbanded after a court declared it void, deepening the stand-off before the new leader even had time to form a government.
The result has been acute political uncertainty as the various power centres try to find a way to get along in a country that still has no permanent constitution, parliament or government more than a year after Mubarak’s downfall.
In their hour-long meeting, Clinton and Tantawi discussed Egypt’s political transition and the military’s “ongoing dialogue with President Mursi,” a U.S. official travelling with Clinton said in an email brief.
“Tantawi stressed that this is what Egyptians need most now – help getting the economy back on track,” the official said.
Clinton “stressed the importance of protecting the rights of all Egyptians, including women and minorities”.
The talks also touched on the increasingly lawless Sinai region and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.